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The Los Angeles chefs and restaurants nominated for 2020 James Beard Awards

The medal given to James Beard award winners.
(James Beard Foundation)

The James Beard Foundation has announced its expansive list of restaurant and chef award semifinalists for its 30th annual awards. Los Angeles chefs and restaurants were nominated in several categories.

The 2020 awards mark the debut of the foundation’s revamped geographic categories for its best chef awards. California and Texas now have their own categories, and a newly introduced Mountain category encompasses Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

For the record:

12:37 PM, Feb. 26, 2020Jon Yao is 28. His age was incorrectly given as 29.

Those changes meant that award for best chef in California was more focused than it had been previously — the best chef in the West category included restaurants from the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii as well as California — which allowed a larger-than-usual slate of L.A. chefs to be nominated.

Genet Agonafer (Meals by Genet), Rocío Camacho (La Diosa de los Moles), Josef Centeno (Orsa & Winston), Jeremy Fox (Birdie G’s), Brandon Go (Hayato), Jessica Koslow (Sqirl), Mei Lin (Nightshade), Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis (Bavel), Niki Nakayama (n/naka) and Carlos Salgado (Taco María) are all semifinalists for this year’s best chef in California.

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Gabriela Cámara and Joshua Skenes were nominated for their restaurants in San Francisco. Both also operate restaurants in Los Angeles: Cámara is a partner, with Koslow, in the Santa Monica restaurant Onda; Skenes opened Angler in the Beverly Center last summer and cooks at private $800-per-person dinner parties at his home in the Hollywood Hills.

In the national new restaurant category, Mei Lin’s Nightshade in the Arts District and Pasjoli, Dave Beran’s French restaurant in Santa Monica, were nominated.

Jon Yao, the 28-year-old chef behind Kato (The Times’ best restaurant of 2019) was named in the rising star chef category, which highlights a chef age 30 or younger “who displays exceptional talent, character and leadership ability, and who is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.” (Yao was nominated for the award last year as well.)

Other semifinalist nominees include Na Young Ma of Proof Bakery for baker, Lincoln Carson of Bon Temps and Margarita Manzke of République for pastry chef, and Ludo Lefebvre of Trois Mec for chef.

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Courtney Kaplan and Charles Namba’s Echo Park sake bar Ototo was nominated for bar program. Kris Yenbaroomg’s offbeat collection of natural wine at Venice’s Night + Market Sahm received a nod for wine program. David Favela of Border X Brewing, a San Diego-based brewery with a taproom location in Bell, was nominated for wine, beer or spirits producer.

Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ truck was nominated for outstanding restaurant — the first food truck named as a semifinalist in that category — which highlights restaurants that have “been in business 10 or more consecutive years” and “demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, service and operations.”

A full list of the semifinalists can be found at jamesbeard.org. Winners will be announced at the Lyric Opera in Chicago on May 4.


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